Saturday, November 12, 2011

Favorite Ingredients, Foie Gras

A breakfast of foie gras, poached egg, potatoes lyonnaise, fresh tomatoes & roaring forties blue cheese

I love foie gras.  I love to cook it.  I love to eat it.  When I first started cooking with foie, it had a certain sexy mystique about it.  When your chef portions the liver and forbids others from cleaning it, or perhaps only one cook is allowed to cook it on the hot line, there's something to be said about learning to cook with it as a whole.  A need to prove oneself.   Chicago banned it for a brief period of time.  There are still people that think it's illegal here now and I think that's sad.  Because no matter what PETA thinks, it's still more humane than the way we treat chickens, cattle, and even our labor in this great country.

The book to read about foie when I started cooking was Foie Gras, A Passion, by Michael A. Ginor.

This book contained a veritable who's who of chefs (including Charlie Trotter who lambasts the gras now) and was the most exciting thing to pass around at Le Francais as we talked of preparations we cooks had experienced cooking at other restaurants or had eaten with our meager paychecks on the rare night out.  I remember talking with a friend for about a half hour on the best way to stuff figs with the liver while breaking down the line.  Good times.

Since then, my experience with the product has grown immensely, yet as of late, haven't had the opportunity to deal with it on a regular schedule.  When I was catering, we sold it often on a large scale, the record being fifteen 2 pound lobes brought in for a party of 550, to be broken down into torchon.  That was fun, and a few of our interns actually got some hands on time while it was still banned.  Chicago doesn't always follow the law.  Heck, technically sous vide is illegal, but look at all the cryovacs & immersion circulators out there.  Kinda expensive paperweights, eh?

My favorite way to make torchon is a hybrid method, lightly cleaning, marinating/curing, and then free poaching in duck fat at 190 degrees for a few minutes, then wrapping and cooling like a free form sausage.  First with cheese cloth and then plastic wrap, and then after cooling, rewrapping after being rolled smooth on a warm surface.  I can control the size of the torchon that way, making logs the size of a saucer or as small as a quarter.  Almost perfectly round to boot.  There's little loss of fat (if done correctly) and the duck fat can be reused or utilized in another dish.  Makes some hella roasted potatoes.

Salt cured torchons deserve some mention.  Very little weight loss occurs, but it can come off as too salty if left in the cure too long.  Smaller torchons and overnight curing is the best route.

A whole lobe.  Sexy, ain't it?

As for sauteed foie, I've seen it done a bunch of different ways.  Some chefs flour it.  Some chefs don't.  Some chefs score it.  Other chefs don't.  Cooking from frozen, as much as a sin as it seems, works insanely well, and you tend to generate less waste.  This is good since the product is so damned expensive to begin with.  However, if you're busy enough, a nice thick piece of liver, vein removed, seared fresh is incredible.  Make sure you get deep color, and DO NOT BURN IT.  Nothing makes me more pissed off than paying for something so sacred... than to see it greasy and without color or burnt to inedibility.  Or for it to be too thin.  Or overcooked until it's rubbery. 

There are plenty of ways to use foie scraps that should be mentioned.  Foie gras is the closest thing we have to edible play doh.  At the right temperature you can mold or form it any which way but loose.  Fun to think about, easy to be creative.  When I have scraps the first thing I usually do is make foie butter.  3:1 unsalted butter to foie scrap passed through a sieve, butter first paddled in a mixer, and the scrap folded in.  Freeze or refrigerate until needed.  Outside of smearing it on bread, foie butter prepared properly does not curdle after being mounted into a sauce or nage.  Effing unbelievable mounted into even vegetable broths.

Foie scrap can also be saved for torchons, worked into strudels, sauteed as a salad special, whipped into mousses, made into crusts for meat or fish with cream cheese, egg & breadcrumb, smeared over your...  pardon me.  Anyways, good stuff.  Don't just throw it out.

 Smiley the Goose says, "I'm no corporate chicken!  I eat a lot more too!  PETA can shove it!  Quack!"

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